Monte di Procida: A Small Italian Town with a Huge Presence in Maryland Dining

| March 4, 2024 | 0 Comments

Three of South Baltimore’s newest restaurants–Limoncello Pizzeria, THB Bagelry + Deli, and Facci–have at least one thing in common: The owners all hail from Monte di Procida. This small town outside Naples, Italy not only has a presence in South Baltimore, it has a huge influence on the Italian restaurant industry across Maryland.

Monte di Procida has an estimated population of 11,845. For comparison, the South Baltimore Peninsula has an estimated population of 23,332 as of 2020. The culture in Monte di Procida of coming to America and working in the food business started several decades ago.

Gianluca Parascandolo, co-owner of Limoncello and Limoncello Pizzeria, told SouthBMore.com most emigration from Monte di Procida goes to Maryland or New Jersey. Parascandolo grew up in Monte di Procida and has lived in both states. He eventually followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father who came to the United States to work in Italian restaurants. Parascandolo is a distant cousin (and lifelong friend) of the Scotto family which owns THB. He was also previously a manager at THB’s Timonium location before opening his own restaurants.

Two names credited with starting the trend of people coming to Maryland from Monte di Procida are Raimondo Lubrano and Luigi Coppola. Lubrano, who died in 2013, opened more than 48 restaurants including the Mama Lucia chain of restaurants, which had several Baltimore locations, and Italian Market, which is still open in Annapolis.

Coppola opened Strapazza in Towson. He is the uncle of the Scotto family.

“The majority of restaurant owners involved in Italian restaurants or pizzerias here in Baltimore came here because of my uncle, Luigi Coppola, who first started Strapazza back in the 90s,” said THB Co-owner Tony Scotto. “He helped people open their own pizza shops.”

Tony Scotto described Lubrano as “one of those Americans we looked up to.”

“Growing up in Monte di Procida, every summer you would see thousands of people who emigrated to the United States coming back for a vacation, and most of them were very successful. That is why kids like me wanted to come to the U.S.,” said Tony Scotto. “My brother, sister, and cousin, together with my dad, came in 2000s and decided to do something different from our friends.”

Instead of opening an Italian restaurant, the Scottos (Tony, Ciro, Orinana, and Gennaro) bought Towson Hot Bagels, located on the same block as Strapazza. Now branded as THB, which was always its moniker in Towson, the Scottos have grown the bagel shop to seven locations and have racked up numerous “best bagel shop” awards in Baltimore. The newest location in Locust Point opened last month.

Parascandolo’s first restaurant, Nonna Angela’s in Crofton, opened in a building owned by Lubrano. Parascandolo and his Limoncello business partners and Monte di Procida natives Gennaro Di Benedetto, Francesco Schiano Di Cola, and Pino Di Benedetto have a large and growing restaurant portfolio. It includes Limoncello, Limoncello Pizzeria, Nonna Angela’s, Frank & Luke’s in Crofton, Bacco Italian + Wine Bar in Abingdon, Good Guys Pizzeria in Pikesville, and the recently-opened Tony’s of NY in Timonium. Some of the partners also own additional restaurants in Anne Arundel Country and the Eastern Shore.

Parascandolo said there is a great food culture in Monte di Procida and Naples, which is credited with the invention of pizza. He noted most natives of Monte di Procida either get into the food business or become sailors.

With so many natives of Monte di Procida emigrating to Maryland and New Jersey, Parascandolo said American culture has made a bit of a mark in Monte di Procida. He noted cheesesteaks are now popular in his hometown. He said there is also been a growing demand for pepperoni in Italy, an Italian-American creation.

The Neapolitan style of pizza evolved into New York-style pizza due to coal (and later gas) ovens Neapolitan immigrants had access to, but wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas have seen a rebirth in America in recent years.

Facci owner Gino Palma is one of the Italians bringing wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas to the United States. Palma moved to America at 19 years old, worked in Italian restaurants, and partnered in other restaurants before opening Facci 14 years ago in Maple Lawn. He opened a location in Ellicott City 10 years ago and is hoping to open his Inner Harbor location at 414 Light St. this month. Palma said he always wanted a Baltimore City location and noted the Inner Harbor waterfront reminds him of his hometown.

Palma hopes to open more Facci locations in the future.

Palma pushed an Italian ice cart along the beach in Monte di Procida when he was a young boy to help bring in money for his family. That’s where he met the Scotto family, whom he is still close with today.

It’s not just the owners of Limoncello and Facci bringing Italian food to Maryland from Monte di Procida. Other restaurants with ties to Monte di Procida include Squisito Pizza & Pasta and its many locations; Pasta Mista in Towson and Canton; Frank’s Pizza and Pasta in Overlea;  Trattoria Amore, Trattoria Enrico, and Go Primo’s in Howard County; Spizzico Italian Kitchen in Arnold; Italian Market in Annapolis; Tony’s Pizza in Williamsport; Pardiso Ristorante in Westminster; and surely many more.

While Monte di Procida has a big presence in the Maryland dining scene, many of the families make a trip back to Monte di Procida every August for the celebration of Patron Saint Maria Assunta. Parascandolo said they are mostly too busy to see each other while in America, but the trip back to Monte di Procida is always a reunion with their friends from home and fellow Marylanders who emigrated from Southern Italy.

“We are proof that The American Dream is still alive,” said Tony Scotto.  “We had to come here and learn a new language and a new culture. And, now, Baltimore and Monte di Procida are both home for us.”

The Scotto family. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Wolf

Gino Palma photo courtesy of Facci 

Gianluca Parascandolo with Nick Mosby and Tim Chin

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About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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